Tag Archive: John Clancy

One year later AFTER Assembly hearing for Halfway House reform

promoted by Rosi

Today marks the one year anniversary of my testimony at the Assembly hearing for the Halfway house system in NJ and I’m still awaiting to see how this saga unfolds.  

If you recall- my beloved younger sister, Viviana Tulli was strangled by David Goodell , a CEC escapee ,on our mother’s 60th birthday on August 30, 2010.

I have read with interest all published articles seeing what is being done in the name of reform and I still wait for an outcome.  

Yes, I do understand this all takes time, but how much longer? Are the powers that be at CEC waiting me out?? Come on guys, you can do better than that.  As you can see- I’m not giving up that easily.

I have been blessed with the outpouring of support and guidance by so many, including your very own Rosi and Bill Orr.

I have requested appointment to the Halfway House task force- or whatever it will be called- to ensure reform does happen.  Who better to be on that task force than myself?? I have a very personal interest in this and will not give up.

I have made contact with several legislators for help in suggesting my appointment- hoping I can make a difference in some way.

I’m an everyday person TRYING to turn my sister’s horrible murder into a positive triumph for  us.  Not an easy feat.  

I recall my testimony last year- and become emotional- emotional as I was that day. My voice cracking, my attempt to hold back my tears as I spoke- all while heavily pregnant.

This rollercoaster ride that began almost 3 years ago has not been a fun ride.  There have been great ups and horrible lows, with some twists and turns for flair.

How can I right such a huge wrong on behalf of so many entities.  Yes, I will admit David killed her.  David, one month ago in court did ADMIT to faking a seizure and gave graphic  detail on “grabbing her by the neck and strangling her.”  When asked if his intent was to kill Vivi- he responded “yes.”

So, rehabilitation for a violent offender at a halfway house facility? Please, show me.

Due to my filed lawsuit against CEC, I can’t speak much about it- in case it hurts us.  What a crock.

 

One Year Later: Where Is The Promised Halfway House Reform?

In 2010 David Goodell, while serving a four-year prison term for an assault conviction, escaped custody of a Newark halfway house run by Community Education Center (CEC). Hours later he murdered Viviana Tullli. On Thursday in court he pleaded guilty to the brutal murder. He said “I grabbed her by the neck and strangled her.” This killing, among other grave problems, formed a part of Sam Dolnick’s N. Y. Times June 2012 riveting investigative report Unlocked.

One year after the report and after two legislative hearings that promised action, Stella Tulli, sister of the deceased, had to relive the memory Thursday of Viviana’s murder with no consolation that our government was taking action to reform halfway houses and prevent such atrocities in the future. She said on Friday, “The guilty plea did awaken a lot of pain today. I feel like the day after I was told of her death. After a while people get tired of hearing about it, but I still continue.”

Stella Tulli testified with heart-felt emotion before both the Senate and Assembly hearings in July. As Sam Dolnick reports yesterday, “After the hearings, lawmakers introduced a package of more than a dozen bills that would reshape the halfway house system, increasing regulation and overhauling the contracts with the private companies. None of those bills have been approved.” Instead legislators created a task force. During the past year Stella Tulli says she e-mailed legislators who were on the hearings, and some responded but others did not.

Prior to the release of the N. Y. Times’ scathing series Governor Christie said at a CEC facility  this is “someplace where the work is purely good.” “Places like this are to be celebrated.” After release of the report Christie said his administration “takes its responsibility to properly administer this program very seriously.” Nonetheless, he line-item vetoed two important provisions which Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) wrote into the Budget bill. His approach has been to sweep halfway house problems under the rug, use line item vetoes, and only grudgingly make minimal changes.

Christie’s numerous connections to CEC, CEC’s significant donations to his campaign, and Christie’s overriding belief in privatization all serve to create conflicts of interest. As the NY Times series documents, Governor Christie’s championing of CEC started in 2001 when he and law partner William Palatucci became registered lobbyists for CEC. Palatucci went on to become a vice President of CEC and close confidante of the governor. Two years ago Christie attended the wedding of the daughter of John Clancy, Founder and Chief Executive of CEC. Christie hired the groom, Samuel Vivattine, to work as an assistant in his office. Paul Krugman in a N. Y. Times piece concludes, “What we are witnessing is a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.”

CEC Investigation: The Dirty Little Secrets of EHCA – Part VIII

Stella Tulli recounts the events of her sister’s murder by a CEC escapee, and her own painful, frustrating and hear-breaking experiences in this Blue Jersey diary.

Following Monday’s Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee’s aggressive questioning, particularly of CEC, we learned more about this secretive private organization and the calamitous disarray at its halfway houses. However, Blue Jersey research into CEC’s non-profit arm – Education & Health Centers of America (EHCA) – reveals disturbing new details. EHCA was created to circumvent the law that requires only non-profits can receive halfway house contracts from the Department of Corrections (DOC). We have learned that EHCA reduces transparency, adds unnecessary costs to the halfway house operation, allows selected individuals to receive dual compensation, lets CEC retain profits in EHCA which are nontaxable, offers no firewall between the two firms, and donates to organizations from which it seeks favors for CEC.

EHCA’s most recent non-profit 990 tax filing provides a wealth of information. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, EHCA received $71,049,271 in revenue from NJ State & local governments. It passed on only $69,038,017 to CEC as a “support service fee,” to run the halfway houses. EHCA kept $2,011,254 (2.8% of EHCA revenue). With EHCA, CEC gained a second entity to divert NJ government funds away from direct CEC services and into separate coffers controlled by CEC.

What did EHCA do with its $2,011,254? First of all, $664,435, which could have been spent on inmate services, was treated as EHCA retained earnings and added to its fund balance. As an entity designed theoretically as a “pass through” organization to get funds to CEC for program purposes, it became a repository to divert funds and allow John Clancy as Chair of both CEC and EHCA to do as he wished. These retained earnings held by the non-profit EHCA are nontaxable, whereas, if they were retained as profit by the for-profit CEC they would be subject to tax. In effect, EHCA reduces CEC’s taxes.

Here are some additional uses for the $2,011,254 pocketed by EHCA. John Clancy paid himself $350,000 as Chair of EHCA, claiming to work 30 hours per week for EHCA – an entity which represents only a fraction of CEC’s total activities in 15 states. This salary excludes whatever he received from CEC as its Founder and CEO to which he likely dedicates the majority of his time. In the process he is using a NJ non-profit organization receiving our government funds  to pay for work most likely performed on ventures in other states. The total compensation costs of this “pass through” agency for its officers, directors, trustees and key employees was $581,863. Other salaries were $262,292, and employee benefits and payroll tax were $84,855.  A lot of costs just to pass government funds to CEC.

Other expenses included legal: $112,332 and accounting: $31,500. With no real difference between the two entities, EHCA added occupancy costs: $60,019, office expenses: $22,073 and other costs for insurance and depreciation.

During Assembly testimony Dr. Robert Mackey, CEC Senior Vice President, testified about the required “firewall” erected between CEC and EHCA. Nonetheless, Dr. Mackey stated he received part of his salary from EHCA and that his responsibilities span many states.  Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20) rightly scoffed at the notion of a “firewall” as Mackey and Clancy work for both organizations. Not mentioned by Dr. Mackey was that Maria Carnevale, as an employee of EHCA with compensation there of $102,600, is also listed in the CEC website as part of the “CEC Management Team” as Assistant to John Clancy, presumably with an additional salary.

Beyond the fold: more about the fake firewall, donations, the impact of EHCA, and the need for change.

Heated Senate Hearing on Halfway Houses Starts at 2:00 PM

The long-awaited Halfway House drama starts at about 2:00 PM with a hearing of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee. There were many warnings of problems culminating in the N Y Times series Unlocked. Now the investigation begins.  

Key scheduled witnesses will include:

  • Comptroller Matthew Boxer whose June 2011 audit revealed serious problems and provided 26 recommendations for changes. A key question is what changes have been made?

  • John Clancy, CEO of Community Education Centers, whose firm received last year $71 million of the $105 million our government spent on such facilities.  His operation came under withering criticism in the NY Times articles and is now believed to be in financial distress.

  • Gary Lanigan, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, who since 2010 was reponsible for monitoring CEC and other halfway houses.

    Members of the Senate committee are: Robert Gordon – Chair, Barbara Buono – Vice-Chair, Thomas Kean, Joseph Kyrillos, Teresa Ruiz, and Paul Sarlo. In firstamend07’s diary, he asks whether the event will be “fight or fluff.” The Democrats have lots of ammunition, but some of the witnesses will be wily and obfuscate, while Republicans will try their best to protect their governor who has praised and enabled CEC.

    For more information see CEC Investigation: Our Leaders Take Action – Part VII.  

    The debate will become heated so make some popcorn and listen to both sides on the legislative website.

    Deciminyan will be live Tweeting up a storm @bluejersey.

    This is open thread…

  • CEC Investigation: Our Legislators Take Action – Part VII

    After years of groups and individuals raising warning signs about problems in halfway houses, the issue was placed in stark relief in a N Y Times devastating series of articles Unlocked by Sam Dolnick. On Thursday the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee chaired by Bob Gordon (D-37) and vice-chaired by Barbara Buono (D-18) will hold a hearing. On Monday the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee chaired by Charles Mainor (D-31) and vice chaired by Gilbert Wilson (D-5) will hold another hearing. The goals are to understand the problems and bring about solutions.

    The Problems: Past articles in the Blue Jersey CEC Investigation series have highlighted serious improprieties regarding halfway houses – particularly those of Community Education Centers (CEC), which last year received $71 million out of $105 million in government expenses. It is a story of CEC’s Founder John Clancy who used a dubious agreement from a prior Attorney General to set up a shell non-profit company and then through large political contributions, lobbying, PR, a well connected legal VP, and friendship with a U.S. attorney and later governor to create a large corrections corporation. With insufficient monitoring from the Department of Corrections (DOC), this company ran facilities that bred an atmosphere of inmate drugs, escapes, violence, gangs, rapes, and deaths. With unqualified staff, security was compromised, the public at large was placed in danger with unnecessary escapes, and the goal of helping to reduce recidivism was given short shrift.

    Christie confidante and CEC Senior Vice President, William Palatucci aided, abetted and defended CEC. Governor Christie as a lawyer at Dughi and Hewitt, as U.S. Attorney, and later as governor at a minimum praised and enabled the activities of CEC. He failed to implement remedies that other more responsible parties were calling for over the years, and he may have done so willfully and improperly. Now we are at the point where the valid role of halfway houses is being discredited, and the largest company in New Jersey is facing such severe financial problems that the DOC might need to take over at a moment’s notice thousands of inmates lodged annually in CEC facilities. CEC failings are not confined to NJ DOC contracts, but extend to those held by NJ local governments and such states as Texas, Alabama, and Colorado.

    There are numerous solutions. The agreement that allowed CEC to use a non-profit organization as a front, in contravention to established regulations, should be ended for any future contracts and possibly existing contracts. CEC was able to build a monopolistic position, and it is now time to enable legitimate non profits to compete fairly for DOC contracts small and large. The Boxer audit laid out key recommendations for remedies, and it is essential to establish what progress DOC has achieved so far and to assure the recommendations are met. Dangerous inmates should not be lodged in halfway houses. The security and living conditions of inmates need to be improved. Process measures must be established to assure that the goals of reducing recidivism through drug treatment, job readiness, and other skills preparatory to re-entering the general population are being well administered. More qualified staffing is important. Pay-to-play regulations urgently need strengthening. People like Governor Christie should be disabused of the notion that privatization brings huge savings, as previous studies have shown that such savings are scant. Goals should include integrity, safety, and reducing recidivism not an elusive search for savings.

    Below the fold are suggestions for some of the individuals who should testify and what questions legislators might ask the individuals.

     

    CEC Investigation: The Puppeteer and His Puppets – Part VI

    “The allegations of civil rights and corrupt government and contractor practices [at halfway houses] are very serious and disturbing. There is a political circle of individuals and relationships that basically controls State government and certain local governments. This circle conspires to protect itself and its members from appropriate oversight and accountability. This practice must end.” – Senator Ronald Rice (D-28)

    Key members of this circle are CEC Founder & CEO John Clancy, Governor Christie, and CEC Senior Vice President and Christie confidante William Palatucci. Another member is Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, about whom much has been written regarding Delaney Hall, immigration detention, Essex County Jail, and CEC campaign contributions. But that is an Essex County story which may not feature in the July Senate and Assembly investigations of State Department of Corrections (DOC) ccontracts. Yet another story revealed by Blue Jersey was CEC’s mismanagement at Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center in Colorado. For CEC the malfeasance involves contracts with NJ state, local government, and other states.

    The nexus of Clancy, Christie, and Palatucci

    Puppeteer: Let’s call Founder John Clancy the puppeteer. The origins of CEC go back to 1979 when he was a youth services county employee and decided there was money to be made through drug and alcohol treatment for those incarcerated. He was so successful that in 2007 private equity firms Primus Capital and LLR Partners invested $53 million in Community Education Centers. Primus boasted that CEC was “the nation’s largest provider of offender re-entry services with 97 facilities in 22 states and revenues in excess of $200 million.” Today CEC is even larger thanks to a little help from his puppets.

    Puppets and what they do

    Chris Christie joined the law firm of Dughi & Hewitt in 1987 which represented CEC. “It appears that between 1994 an 1996, CEC made good use of its legal counsel and most likely, its political connections, to strike a deal with the AG’s office to allow CEC to use Education and Health Centers of America (EHCA) as a shell to comply with the state’s legal requirement that only non-profits can hold contracts with the state to operate halfway houses.” Perhaps, it was just coincidental that another member of the law firm at the time was William Palatucci, who had joined in 1992. Fast-forward to 2011 when EHCA’s Form 990 (NJ non profit tax return) indicates that on $71 million in revenue from our state and local governments, $350,000 was spent on John Clancy’s compensation as Chair of EHCA, exclusive of whatever he received from CEC.

    In 2000 and 2001 both Christie and Palatucci were registered lobbyists for CEC. In 2005, after representing CEC for 14 years, Palatucci joined the company as its Senior Vice President and General Counsel. His ongoing close relationship with Christie includes helping run Christie’s gubernatorial campaign, serving as co-chair of the governor’s inaugural committee, sitting on the board of Reform Jersey Now which raised money to promote Christie policies, and being a member of the Legislative Apportionment Commission.

    As US Attorney, Christie attended the ribbon cutting ceremony in 2007 for CEC‟s new corporate headquarters and the ten year anniversary celebration in 2008 of Talbot Hall. By 2008 with lots of cash, a U.S. attorney as a friend, a well-connected legal V.P., a dubious, sweet-heart deal on EHCA, little DOC oversight, and weak competitors, Clancy must have been asking himself, “What’s not to like?”

    But it gets even better for Clancy thanks to more help… also warning signs… and let’s not forget CEC donations beyond the fold  

    CEC Investigation: The Clamor and Urgency Grow – Part IV

    The Senate and Assembly are each now considering launching an investigation into NJ halfway houses, most of which are operated by Community Education Centers (CEC). Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) has approved the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee to launch an investigation if committee Chairman Senator Robert Gordon (D-38) wishes to proceed. Assemblyman Charles Mainor (D-31), chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, has said, “We definitely want a hearing and we want to concentrate on finding out why there are so many escapes going on, along with the recidivism, along with the crime that’s being committed by people that are escaping.”

    Prior to the release of the NY Times’ scathing report on CEC and halfway houses, Governor Christie said at CEC’s Delaney Hall in 2010, this is “someplace where the work is purely good.” “Places like this are to be celebrated.” Just months before an inmate was murdered there. After release of the report Christie said his administration “takes its responsibility to properly administer this program very seriously.” Nonetheless, he line-item vetoed two important provisions which Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) wrote into the Budget bill. Christie has been aware of these problems since even before becoming governor. His approach has been to sweep them under the rug, use line item vetoes and only grudgingly make minimal changes.

    Christie’s numerous connections to CEC, CEC’s significant donations to his campaign, and Christie’s overriding belief in privatization all serve to create conflicts of interest. As the NY Times series documents, Governor Christie’s championing of CEC started in 2001 when he and law partner William Palatucci became registered lobbyists for CEC. Palatucci went on to become a vice President of CEC and close confidante of the governor. Since Christie took office 1,300 halfway house inmates have escaped, one of whom went on to murder a woman within hours of escaping from a CEC facility. Last summer Christie attended the wedding of the daughter of John Clancy, Founder and Chief Executive of CEC. Christie hired the groom, Samuel Vivattine, to work as an assistant in his office. Paul Krugman in a NY Times piece concludes what we are witnessing is a corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage that is undermining government across much of our nation.

    It is not surprising that a wide variety of media and individuals have raised a hue and cry. See below the fold outraged editorials and commentary, as well as responses from two apologists/defenders.  

    The Valle Brothers Thanksgiving “Miracle” Which Might Even Have Newt’s Approval

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released brothers Michell and Yasser Valle from Newark’s Delaney Hall just in time for Thanksgiving with their family and children. They had come from Peru to the U.S. seventeen years ago but after their mother lost her right to stay in the United States, they were detained by ICE and have spent months separated from their family in the Community Education Centers (John Clancy and Bill Palatucci) facility.  

    Over 2,000 people signed petitions on behalf of their release. Congratulations to the NJ-Dream Act-Coalition and the support of Kathy Wargo O’Leary’s Pax Christi for this victory. As immigrant attorney Yael Bromberg explains “This is where the rubber hits the road in the national paradigm following Obama’s new policy and supposed practice of prosecutorial discretion. Let’s hope this is just the beginning.”

    Because they were arrested while in college, have a family here, and lived so long in the USA, they might even meet Newt Gingrich’s recently stated policy calling for humane treatment for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, establishing deep family and community ties. Amidst all the drivel of the recent Republican debates, candidates have been trying to outdo each other by pushing ever further into the dark recesses of the far right. Firebrand Gingrich might have upset those who can only love Darth Vader, but he actually provided a reasoned proposal, which, while it does not go far enough, at least brings some light, compassion and reason to an issue which in conservative circles is bereft of all such attributes.

    For more about these Passaic brothers and their family see koleary’s diary Work Hard, Go To School, End In Jail.